Most people don’t know about the deadly bomb that was set off on Wall Street nearly a century ago.It killed 30 people and injured many more.
Art Cashin talks about it in this morning’s Cashin’s Comments:
On this day (+3) in 1920, sometime before noon, a drayhorse hitched to an enclosed wagon, stood, unattended, pawing the ground (or cobblestones) at the curbside in front of the U.S. Assay Office on Wall Street.
It was a cloudy, somewhat humid day and brokers and clerks at the Stock Exchange began setting up lunch reliefs amid a mild rally in moderate trading. The rally’s key feature was Reading, up about 2, at 93 3/4. The other feature was U.S. Steel (trading steadily at 89 3/8). Many clerks tended to spend the lunch hour watching the excavation for the NYSE annex, at Broad and Wall, right next to the Exchange itself.
Just minutes before noon, and just minutes before Exchange clerks and clerks from the House of Morgan, (just across Broad Street from the Exchange) might have poured out to the corner of Broad and Wall, a huge explosion erupted from the wagon. It killed 30 people on the street instantly, and injured hundreds of others.
Flying metal shards tore into the limestone face of the Morgan Bank, dislodged steps on the Sub Treasury next to the Assay Office and even shot through the window of the Bankers Club at 120 Broadway (one block and 30 stories above the explosion).
Luckily, the drapes on the grand windows of the Exchange were closed so none of the flying glass killed anyone in the “Reading” crowd.
Nevertheless, Bill Remick, the Exchange president, walked to the rostrum from the “money desk” and rang the bell, halting trading for the day. He said he did it because it was “just the right thing to do.”
No one ever caught the mad bomber despite the final death toll of scores of people. And the next morning the rally resumed, beginning the upswing of the roaring twenties. Years later, but before the crash, an Attorney General would remark that the bomb had been planted by those who believed in communism.
To celebrate the event show someone the pock marks that still sit in the wall of the House of Morgan and remind them that the only people who believe in communism these days are teaching economics at U.S. universities.
(Editorial Oddity – The Wall Street bombing was the greatest act of terrorism in the U.S. until Oklahoma City. That in turn was supplanted by 9/11. There are some who believe that if the 1920 Wall Street bomb had gone off 20 minutes later causalities might have actually exceeded the WTC total.)
There were no explosions on Wall Street yesterday (thankfully!). There was a lot of rumbling but not much movement – somewhat like marching in place.
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